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Florida 69, Alabama 61: Gators win to begin 2015 SEC Tournament, led by Dorian Finney-Smith

Dorian Finney-Smith's third double-double of the season helped the Gators get a win.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Behind 23 points and 11 rebounds from Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida got a 69-61 win over Alabama in the first round of the 2015 SEC Tournament on Thursday.

Florida's Friday reward? A date with Kentucky.

For a day, most things went right for Florida — even though a 17-9 run by Alabama began the game and knocked Florida on its heels. The Gators responded by going on an 18-6 run into halftime, taking a four-point lead to the locker room, and though Alabama's 4-0 burst tied the game early in the second half, Florida took back the lead with a 7-0 spurt, and never gave it up again.

Doe-Doe — whose brilliant final minute swung the first meeting between these two teams this season — hammered the Crimson Tide inside and out, with six offensive rebounds and four threes. 10 of his 23 points were second chance points, and Florida scored on four of the five possessions on which Finney-Smith snagged an offensive board.

Finney-Smith's performance, and 19 bench points, made up for a relatively quiet day from Florida's starters not named Eli Carter, who had 11 points, and was Florida's only other player to make more than two shots. (Kasey Hill, Chris Chiozza, and Jon Horford combined for 13 points on just seven shots.)

But that offense was efficient despite missing shots — 12 offensive rebounds and just six turnovers made any other outcome hard — and the Gators made 18 of 26 free throws, neither great nor nearly as bad as Florida's recent level from the line.

And Florida's defense held Alabama without a jumper outside the paint for nearly 34 minutes, locking down a limited Crimson Tide team that struggled to score with shooter Rodney Cooper sitting with foul trouble for much of the contest. 'Bama would make as many free throws as field goals (19), but had just 12 makes from the field over the game's final 30:45.

Florida's not at full strength heading into this Friday showdown with Kentucky, not with Michael Frazier II (1-for-10 and 1-for-8 from three in this one for just five points) still clearly limited as a result of a high ankle sprain suffered in Florida's first meeting with the Wildcats this season. But they're close, and they played quite well against a team that doesn't have nearly the constellation of talent John Calipari has put together on Thursday.

Even Florida's best effort probably won't be enough to upset the undefeated 'Cats. After this game, though, I feel pretty strongly that we'll at least see that best effort on Friday.